JELLEY ENDURES FRUSTRATING FINALE
A mixed weekend was slim reward for the efforts of Stephen Jelley during the 2021 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship finale just over a fortnight ago, as the Team BMW man made impressive headway in race two and earned pole position for the final bout but ultimately missed out on a headline result.
After qualifying ninth, Jelley lost a place early to fellow BMW driver Tom Chilton but would run in the top ten for the majority of the opening contest. Technical gremlins took their toll in the final laps and the Leicester racer dropped down the order to find himself a disappointed 23rd at the flag.
Putting on an impressive display in race two, Jelley made up an incredible 12 places on the opening lap before a safety car was called. The 39-year-old moved up into the top ten on the restart, before a spin for Aiden Moffat promoted the #12 machine to ninth which he held for the rest of the encounter.
From pole position – by virtue of the reverse grid draw – Jelley had high hopes for the final race of the year and the Team BMW man started well, making sure Chilton had no chance to get past as the cars jumped off the line. His next challenge, however, came in the form of the #1 Infiniti of Ash Sutton.
Despite initially defending the lead from the recently-crowned champion, a good run off the final corner helped Sutton get past and, as other rivals took advantage of the opening, Jelley found himself back in fourth before the safety car was deployed.
On the restart, Tom Ingram got inside at Druids, with Josh Cook following through before contact at Surtees spun him to 25th and last position. From then onwards there wasn’t much Jelley could do, gaining 24th when Andy Wilmot pitted, but he was still 22 seconds away from the next car ahead.
After enjoying his return to West Surrey Racing and Team BMW this season, Jelley is already looking forward to the 2022 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship, which will be the series’ first utilising hybrid engine power.
“It was a disappointing weekend, to be honest,” admitted Jelley. “Qualifying was close, the balance of the car was really good, and the lap was a really good one too. In race one, unfortunately, we got a misfire which dropped me out of it.
“Race two was a real positive, fighting back to ninth place from 23rd on the grid – and I did it cleanly. Then in race three, there were little taps left, right, and centre, and then [contact from] Jake Hill just ended it really. I got going again and carried on – the car was okay – but it’s just hard to take really because I didn’t make an error and I’ve just been taken out of the race. It’s a frustrating way to end the season.”